There’s a conversation that I’m sure many others who identify as feminists have had. It goes something like this: “Are you a feminist?” “Yes.” “Oh, I’m not because feminists are so…” followed by many things that aren’t true about or believed by most feminists. I’ve had conversations like this with both women and men, and I am always left shocked about the stigma around feminism and how many people believe that there is no longer a need for it. Like all ideologies, feminism is a spectrum, and there are people with extreme beliefs about it. As with many ideologies, the people on the extreme ends of the spectrum are much louder and more attention grabbing, so everyone who identifies as a feminist gets grouped with them, even when they may have drastically different views. Feminism is defined as belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. When you look at it by its definition, it’s far from the radical ideology that many people associate it with. It is also something that I can’t imagine not supporting.

Before diving into anything to do with feminism, here’s a (very) brief history of feminism. The first wave of feminism was the period of time when women were fighting for the right to vote, and the suffragette movement. The second wave was through the 1960’s to the 1980’s, and is associated with fighting for social equality, such as the right to have a credit card, the ability to pursue higher education and have a career, and generally move away from the “traditional” lifestyle associated with the 1950’s. The second wave was spurred by the work of feminist authors such as Simone de Beauvoir (“The Second Sex”) and Betty Freidan (“The Feminine Mystique”), who questioned what it means to be a woman, and spoke about feeling unsatisfied with the traditional life that a woman was expected to lead. The third wave of feminism occurred in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and is associated with a more intersectional view on feminism, with many leaders of the movement addressing issues that prior waves overlooked. While prior waves were incredibly important, they were led by middle class white women, who had different struggles than women from different economic situations and women of color. The fourth (and current) wave of feminism started with the Me Too movement. The focus of this wave is the dismantling of rape culture, supporting and empowering women, and body positivity. With the rise of social media occurring between the third and fourth waves, the fourth wave is also characterized by the use of social media to share the message.

One reason that many people don’t consider themselves feminists is because on paper, men and women are equal. This is true, but you don’t have to search very hard to find examples of men and women being treated differently on the basis of sex. Socially, there are so many ways that women are judged and treated differently than men: the stigma around periods, harsh judgement of women for who enjoy sex, the list goes on and on. To think that these social stigmas don’t have consequences when it comes to women’s political and economic equality is naïve. Politically, you don’t have to look much farther than the overturning of Roe v. Wade and criminalization of abortion in the United States to see the legal consequences of social stigmas. Economically, there’s the gender wage gap, which in Canada is 16.1%.

When considering why we still need feminism, many fail to look beyond their own experiences. It’s easy to fall into the idea that because you don’t personally experience something it doesn’t exist, but you need to step back and consider experiences of other women. Internationally there are countries where women do not have equal rights. Internationally and domestically, femicide occurs every day. When considering the injustices that other women face on a daily basis, it’s clear that there is still a need for feminism. Dating back to the first wave, there have been groups of women excluded from the movement: the suffragette movement is associated with women fighting for the right to vote and political equality. While this was a good fight that brought about change, the right to vote was not for all women. In Canada, as a result of the work of the suffragette movement, white and black women were granted the right to vote federally in 1918. It took decades Asian and Indigenous women to be granted this right. Looking at this now, it seems terrible that only some women were included in the initial movement for the right to vote, and others were left behind. By failing to acknowledging that different women still have different experiences and needs when it comes to feminism, the cycle of leaving groups of women behind because your own needs have been met continues. As the most connected generation of feminists so far, I think it’s unacceptable to continue the cycle of leaving women out because they have different needs.

When considering why I consider myself a feminist, there are so many reasons that I am proud to be one. As a feminist, I believe in empowering other women. As a feminist, I believe in advocating for the needs of other women, even if they are different from my own. As a feminist, I listen and learn from women with different life experiences. When I think about all the reasons that I am a feminist, I cannot think of a single one that is a bad thing, because they all have to do with listing to, learning from, and empowering other women. At the end of the day, I am proud to be a feminist because, to me, being a feminist means supporting and advocating for the equality of women. It’s not a belief that I will ever be ashamed of or feel the need to hide.

About the Author

Hi! My name is Tiana, and I'm a third year Immunology and Infection major. This is my first year working with WEW, and I'm super excited to be working with such an amazing group to spread awareness about important issues. When I'm not studying or writing I enjoy baking, reading, and doing sudoku puzzles.